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Tej Bahadur Dube Vs. Commissioner of Income-tax - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petition No. 9376 of 1981
Judge
Reported in[1985]152ITR476(AP)
ActsIncome Tax Act, 1961 - Sections 132, 132(1), 132(5) and 132B; Bearer Bond Act
AppellantTej Bahadur Dube
RespondentCommissioner of Income-tax
Advocates:Y.V. Anjaneyulu, Adv.
Excerpt:
.....further declaring state bank of india bound to invest sum of rs. 1000000 in purchase of special bearer bonds - no provisions of law brought to notice which gave immunity from search and seizure - no substantial question of law involved - held, no immunity can be given in respect of any amount during period commencing from 01.05.1981 to 30.11.1981 and consequently no promissory estoppel applied against first respondent. - motor vehicles act (59 of 1988)section 149 (2): [v. gopala gowda & jawad rahim, jj] insurers entitlement to defend the action joint appeal by insured and insurer - held, the language employed in enacting sub-section (2) of section 149 appears to be plain and simple and there is no ambiguity in it. it shows that when an insurer is impleaded and has been given..........hyderabad, under s. 132(1) of the income-tax act as illegal and with out jurisdiction,(ii) direct bearer bonds, 1991 and to deliver the same to the petitioner, and (iii) for further declaring that, in any event, the state bank of india, chandulal baradari branch, hyderabad, is bound to invest the said sum of rs. 10,00,000 in the purchase of special bearer bonds and is accountable to the petitioner accordingly. 2. we may notice, in brief, the facts averred by the petitioner which are necessary for the disposal of this petition. the petitioner is partner of a partnership firm carrying on business under thank and style of 'pandit debi prayag dutt' with its head office at calcutta and branches at several places in india. the petitioners in charge of the business carried on the said firm.....
Judgment:

Mdhava Reddy, J.

1. This is a petition under article 226 of the Constitution of India for an appropriate writ, direction or order (i) declaring the seizure of a sum of Rs. 10,00,000 on November 30, 1981 by the Commissioner of Income-tax, Andhra Pradesh Circle II, Hyderabad, from the State Bank of India, Chandulal Baradari Branch, Hyderabad, under s. 132(1) of the Income-tax Act as illegal and with out jurisdiction,(ii) direct bearer Bonds, 1991 and to deliver the same to the petitioner, and (iii) for further declaring that, in any event, the State Bank of India, Chandulal Baradari Branch, Hyderabad, is bound to invest the said sum of Rs. 10,00,000 in the purchase of Special Bearer Bonds and is accountable to the petitioner accordingly.

2. We may notice, in brief, the facts averred by the petitioner which are necessary for the disposal of this petition. The petitioner is partner of a partnership firm carrying on business under thank and style of 'Pandit Debi Prayag Dutt' with its head office at Calcutta and branches at several places in India. The petitioners in charge of the business carried on the said firm thoughts Hyderabad Branch. The petitioner firm is an assessee at calcutta. On November 30, 1981, under an authorisation issued by the Commissioner of Income-tax AndraPradesh II, under s. 132(1) of the I.T. Act,1961(hereinafter referrede to as 'the Act'), the officers of the Income-tax Department entered the premises of the State Bank of India. Baradari Branch, Hyderabad (hereinafter referred to as 'the Bank'), with a warrant of search. The authorised officers inspected the safe room of the Bank and found a sealed brown paper packed with a white label pasted thereon with the following note 'safe deposit article deposited by P.S. Prasad (branch manager, State bank of India, chandulal Baradari, Hyderabad, House No.56, State Bank of India Staff Colony, New Bakaram, Hyderabad'. During the course of the search, the authorised officer elicited from Sri P. S. Prasad, Manager of the Bank that that packet containing Rs. 10,00,000 was left by the petitioner with the bank on November 25, 1981 at 11 a.m. for the specific purpose of utilising the said amount for the purchase of Special Bearer Bonds, 1991, on December 1, 1981, Mr. rasadis also alleged to have stated that the petitioner had informed him that he was leaving Hyderabad that day and was not likely to return before December 1, 1981, and, hence as soon as the sale of bearer bonds was commenced by the State Bank of India, he should purchase the same. The tax officers prepared the necessary panchnama and seized the said packet containing Rs. 10,00,000. They also required the bank to issue a demand draft for Rs. 10,00,000 and, accordingly, two demand draft dated November 30, 1981, for an aggregate sum of Rs. 10,00,000 were issued by the bank to the officers. Petitioner also avers that Sri P.S. Prasad obtained a safe deposit receipt No. 8/1, dated November 25, 1981, which showed that one packet sealed with his personal seal had been received for safe custody by the 2nd respondent bank and that the said amount did not belong to him but belonged to the petitioner. The keys of the safe room were in custody of two officers of the bank, i.e., the Accountant, M.A Quader, and the Head cashier, Sudhir.

3. It is stated that the petitioner was away in Hardoi in U.P attending the marriage of his nephew and on receiving the above information, contacted Dr. Sudhir Bhattacharjee, Chartered Accountant, Calcutta, on December 8, 1981. His chartered accountant gathered the above facts and contacted the tax authorities on behalf of the petitioner. They confirmed the seizure of the said sum of Rs. 10,00,000 and also informed him that the mandatory enquiry under s. 132(5) of the Act would be conducted by the ITO having jurisdiction to assess the petitioner, the said officer being the ITO District IV(3), A-ward, Calcutta, the 4th respondent herein Although the petitioner's chartered accountant had stated that the petitioner had no objection to appear before the authorised officer to give his statement as required by him he was later informed that it was not necessary and that be would be informed later about the future course of action. This action of the respondents in seizing the said sum of Rs. 10,00,000 from the 2nd respondent-bank is challenged as illegal and without jurisdiction.

4. It is contended that the pre-conditions for issuing an authorisation under s. 132(1) were not satisfied and as such the warrant of search issued by the 1st respondent was illegal and without jurisdiction. Consequently, he seizure of he sum of Rs. 10,00,000 was illegal and liable to be quashed. It is also contended that the seizure of the amount could not have been effected from the bank when it was disclosed by the bank that the amount belonged to the petitioner. Without prejudice to the above said contentions, it is urged that the seizure of this amount constitutes a breach of promise held out to the taxpayers by the Union of India, the 5th respondent herein, to invest their unaccounted money in Special bearer Bonds, 1991, without suffering any consequences,under the Special Bearer Bonds (Immunities and Exemptions) Ordinance, 1981' promulgated on January 12, 1981, and, since replaced by the Special Bearer Bonds (Immunities and Exemptions Act, 1981, (Act No.7 of 1981). As the Special Bearer Bonds are declared to be on sale from December 1, 1981, at the officers of the Reserve Bank of India at several laces including Hyderabad and at all branches of the State Bank of India and its subsidiary officers in India, it is leaded that the deposit of the amount on November 25, 1981, for purchasing Special Bearer Bonds, 1991, on December 1, 1981, cannot render the amount liable to seizure on November 30, 1981, from the custody of the bank, where it was deposited for safe custody for that specific purpose. This constitutes a clear violation of the assurances and promises given to the taxpayers. The petitioner is entitled to invoke the doctrine of promissory estoppel and on that basis, the court is bound to restrain the respondents from appropriating the said sum of Rs. 10,00,000 seized and is bound to direct investment of the same in the purchase of Special Bearer Bonds.

5. From the facts stated by the petitioner, it is clear that this amount of Rs. 10,00,000 was not disclosed by him anywhere. According to him, lit was an amount which was handed over to Sri P.S Prasad, Manager of the bank. The manager of the bank did not credit this amount to the account of the petitioner. The manager of the bank did not credit this amount to the account of the petitioner. The note pasted on the packet merely disclosed that it was deposited by Mr. P.S Prasad, Branch Manger of the bank. It reads as if it is an article that was deposited and not a sum of Rs. 10,00,000. Be that as it may, there is no entry in any of the records of the bank to show that any such deposit was made by the petitioner. Prima facie there is nothing to establish that that amount belongs to the petitioner.

6. Even if it is assumed that the amount belongs to the petitioner, as the branch manager is alleged to have stated so to the tax authorities who came to search and seize the packet under the authority of the warrant issued by the Commissioner of Income-tax, it is an amount which has not been accounted for or disclosed by the petitioner. The petitioner is admittedly an assessee and if he has not disclosed such a large sum of Rs. 10,00,000 and authorities had credible information so as to make them believe that money or valuable article or thing is kept at a particular place, action could be taken under s. 132 of the Act. In consequence of the information in his possession, if the Commissioner or the IAC specially empowered in this behalf, has reason to believe that any person is in possession of money or other valuable article or thing and the same represents wholly or partly income or property which has not been disclosed for the purpose of the I.T.Act, then such authorised officer may, as laid down in s. 132(1), enter and search any building or place where he has reason to suspect that money or other valuable article or thing is kept.

7. The contention of Mr.Y. V. Anjaneyulu, learned counsel for the petitioner, is that when someone from the bank had informed the income-tax authorites that a packet of Rs. 10,00,000 is in the safe room of the 1st respondent-bank, such an information does not raise a mere suspicion but constitutes a definite information and, as such, no question of making a search contemplated by s. 132(1) arises. On the basis of such information, the bank could be prohibited from disposing of the said packet or money. According to issue a warrant for the search of the safe room. We are unable to agree with this contention. Firstly, there is nothing on record to show that any definite information was given by any particular person. Even otherwise, any such information by itself cannot amount to proof of the existence of such money or valuable article or thing. It could raise only a suspicion warranting a search and only upon a search, the correctness of the information given could be verifies. The information may be credible and on the basis of that information, the Commissioner may have reason to believe. But none the less, unless, on the basis of that information, the place is searched, one cannot be certain whether the information is correct. As stated by the petitioner in para, 10 of his affidavit, 'some of the staff members working in respondent No. 2-bank had seen him bringing the pocket with its contents and packing it in brown paper and depositing it in the safe room'. But the tax authorities had not seen the same being so deposited. On such information being received, they could only suspect that such a packet is kept in the safe room of the bank. If some one had so informed the tax authorites, there were justifiable grounds to believe that such a packet was kept in the safe room. The action of the Commissioner in issuing the warrant for search and the subsequent seizure cannot, in the circumstances, be said to be illegal or without jurisdiction.

8. Further, it is not as if such a each resulting in the seizure of the packet completely forecloses the matter. The petitioner who claims that this amount is not liable to be sized, has an opportunity to make his representation before the income-tax authorities. Under sub-s (5) of s. 132 of the Act, the ITO, after affording a reasonable opportunity to the person concerned of being heard and making such enquiry as may be prescribed, a bound to make an order, with the previous approval of the IAC within ninety days of the seizure estimating the undisclosed income in a summary manner to the best of his judgment, calculation the amount of tax on the income so estimated and determining the amount of interest payable and the amount of penalty impossible in accordance with the provisions of the Act, and retain in his custody such assets or part thereof as are in his opinion sufficient to satisfy the aggregate of the amounts for which the assessee is liable and release the balance of the amount or assets, if any, to the person from whose custody they were seized. The assets retained under sub-s.(5) are required to be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of s. 132b of the Act. The petitioner has thus sufficient opportunity to satisfy the authorities at the said enquiry that the amount is not liable to seizure. The petitioner is entitled to be heard under sub-s.(5) of s. 132 by the competent tax authorities that the amount seized is not liable to be forfeited or confiscated and that they are bound to release it. Even on the facts stated by the petitioner himself, this court cannot say that the seizure of the amount was wholly without jurisdiction or unwarranted in the circumstances of the case.

9. It was next contended that the amount may not have been accounted for and was not disclosed to the tax authorities but as it was intended to be invested in Special Bearer Bonds, 1991, issued under the Ordinance, it was not liable to seizure. The Special Bearer Bonds (Immunities and Exemptions) Act (Act No. 7 of 1981) received the assent of the President on 27th March, 1981. It replaced the ordinance issued earlier on 12th January, 1981. The validity of the Special Bearer Bonds (Immunities and Exemptions) Ordinance, 1981, as well as the Act was unsuccessfully questioned in a batch of writ petitions before the Supreme Court. Thereupon the sale of Special Bearer Bonds issued pursuant to the Ordinance and the Act was proposed to be resumed from 1st December, 1981, and carried on till 30th December, 1981. May be the Finance Minister expressed the hope that in view of the Supreme Court upholding the validity of the Special Bearer Bonds (Immunities and Exemptions) Act, there would be greater response to the sale of the bonds with effect from December 1, 1981, and may be, as pleaded by the petitioner, he deposited the amount with the bank through P.S. Prasad, Manager of the said bank, on November 25, 1981, for the specific purpose of purchasing the Special Bearer Bonds on December 1, 1981. But we are unable to find any provision in the Ordinance or the Act which gives immunity or exemption from search or seizure of any amount that may have been kept unaccounted with any assessee or with any bank of the assessee for the purchase of the Special Bearer Bonds. The purchase of the Special Bearer Bonds, as and when they are offered for sale, may guarantee immunity and exemption from any of the penal provisions of the I.T. Act; but we do not find any provision granting immunity or exemption from search and seizure of any amount that may have been set apart for the purchase of bonds that may be offered for sale in future. Whether the amount in the hands of an assessee between December 1, 1981, and December 30, 1981, set apart or intended for the purchase of Bearer Bonds, could be seized or not is a matter which does not concern us in this writ petition, for this amount, even according to the petitioner, was deposited with the bank on November 25, 1981, and the search and seizure was made on November 30, 1981. During the aforesaid period, the Bearer Bonds were not offered for sale. The immunity granted under s. 3 of the Special Bearer Bonds (Immunities and Exemptions) Act, 1981, reads as follows :

'3. Immunities. - (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, -

(a) no person who has subscribed to or has otherwise acquired Special Bearer Bonds shall be required to disclose, for any purpose whatsoever, the nature and source of acquisition of such Bonds;

(b) no inquiry or investigation shall be commenced against any person under any such law on the ground that such person has subscribed to or has otherwise acquired Special Bearer Bonds; and

(c) the fact that a person has subscribed to or has otherwise acquired Special Bearer Bonds shall not be taken into account and shall be inadmissible as evidence in any proceedings relating to any offence or the imposition of any penalty under any such law.'

10. The notification for the sale of Bearer Bonds was issued on 15th January, 1981. The Bearer Bonds, which were offered for sale under the notification No. F. 4(1) W & M/81, dated January 15,1981, with effect from February 2,1981, were on sale up to 30th April, 1981. They were withdrawn from sale with effect from 1st May, 1981, and were again offered for sale only with effect form December 1, 1981. This amount of Rs. 10,00,000 obviously was an amount acquired subsequent to 30th April, 1981. If it was acquired earlier, perhaps it would have been invested in the purchase of the Bearer Bonds when they were offered for sale between 2nd February, 1981, and 30th April, 1981. No immunity is given for any unaccounted money between May 1, 1981, and November 30, 1981, and it was liable to be seized. No provision of law has been brought to our notice which gave immunity from search and seizure of such amount. When no immunity is given in respect of any amount during the period, commencing from May 1, 1981, to November 30, 1981, the question of any promissory estopple operating against the first respondent from seizing this amount arises.

11. In view of the above, we find no merit in this writ petition and, accordingly, dismiss the same.

12. Sri Y. V. Anjaneyulu, learned counsel for the petitioner, made an oral request for grant of leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. In the view we have taken, we are unable to certify that this matter involves such substantial question of law of general importance as requires consideration of the Supreme Court or that it is otherwise a fit case for grant of leave. The oral request is, therefore, rejected.


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